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Welsh government proposes placing polling stations in colleges

People in Wales may soon be able to vote for their local representatives as they go about their weekly shop or finish their lessons.

The Welsh government has written to the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) putting forward the idea of flexible voting pilots in next year’s local government elections.

The pilot scheme would see polling stations installed in sites such as leisure centres or supermarkets. Booths could also be placed in secondary schools and colleges to encourage newly enfranchised 16 and 17 year olds to vote.

‘We want to make it as easy as possible for people to vote, which is why we’re looking at making voting possible in more places, including in shops and schools,’ said Mick Antoniw, counsel general and minister for constitution.

‘Democracy should be a part of all our lives and if more of us take part, it will lead to better policy making by elected representatives and policies which truly represent the views and experiences of all of us.

‘These voting pilots will help us to better understand how we can increase turnout. We believe making voting more flexible and easier will bring democracy closer to everyone.’

The Welsh government is also exploring the possibility of opening polling stations the day before or the weekend before an election, or across multiple days to give people more options to vote in advance.

People may also be able to vote at any polling station in a local authority area, instead of having to vote at an appointed polling station.

Rebecca Evans, minister for finance and local government, commented: ‘We have had constructive discussions with the Welsh Local Government Association about the need to modernise the way elections work.

‘We’re now encouraging local authorities to step forward and play a part in shaping the future of elections in Wales. Piloting new approaches at the elections in May 2022 would be the first step in a longer term process that could see radical changes to how people exercise their democratic right to vote across the whole of Wales in future.’

Cllr Andrew Morgan, WLGA leader added: ‘A healthy democracy relies on good engagement and accessible elections which fit the modern needs of people in local communities. Constructive discussions have already begun with Welsh government to look at new ways to bring democracy closer to the people, and we will look forward to exploring the practicalities of rolling out these ideas in communities across Wales.’